By Martina Andreoli
Have you ever questioned why there is toilet paper in public bathrooms?
Exactly, because it is a human necessity.
But why aren’t female hygiene products available in them too? Half of the world’s population menstruates and having the necessary hygiene products to be able to menstruate without having risks of infections or being afraid of leaking should be a human necessity too.
If men menstruated, menstrual products would be considered a human necessity for centuries, but sadly women still have to fight for their necessities to be seen as such by the whole world. Menstrual products should be available for free in public bathrooms especially in education centers and here is why:
Hygiene products are expensive. There are still many countries where the period tax is high, which makes it even more difficult for people who menstruate to be able to afford the essential products that they require. According to a study by the Huffington Post, a woman will have a total cost of $18,171 for her period. This includes the costs of birth control, tampons, new underwear (since leaking destroys many underwear), pads, pain relievers, and more. The average woman will have a total of 456 periods that will equate to 6.25 years of her life on her period. That is an immense amount of time and with that come the costs of periods.
Additionally, in too many countries, period products are still being considered a luxury instead of a necessity. The Period Tax movement shows that the standard tax rate is being applied to menstrual products, instead of it being decreased or exempted from taxes such as in Canada, Spain, India, and South Africa. Eliminating the period tax and providing menstrual products in public bathrooms will help to end period stigma, make these products more affordable and decrease gender inequality.
Another reason why female hygiene products should be available for free in public bathrooms is that periods are still a taboo topic. Although the world has progressed, periods are still seen as something that should not be talked about. Giving pads to someone feels like trafficking drugs: hiding it under the sweater and quickly passing it over so that nobody sees the transaction that just occurred. Since society does not progress overnight and discomfort exists around periods, it is even more so necessary that public bathrooms and especially education centers should offer female hygiene products for free in the toilets.
It happens far too many times that some girl in a bathroom has to stuff toilet paper in her underwear because she did not bring any pads or tampons. This system may be effective at first but poor menstrual hygiene can have many negative effects: physical health risks, reproductive and urinary tract infections, and limiting women from reaching their full potential due to the discomfort they feel. Periods can also affect school attendance. If a girl has severe period pain or not the necessary resources, she may decide not to go to school. This should not be the case!
Another important factor to consider is that at a young age when a girl first menstruates, it is very probable that she does not have any products with her or does not know how to handle what is happening. First of all, education for both men and women is needed on the topic. Although only women menstruate, men should know what is happening to the bodies of half the population every month. Yes, it is normal to have mood swings and yes, many women have such strong cramps that they have to rest and stay in bed whilst on their period. This should not only be common knowledge amongst women but also amongst men so that there is more understanding about this topic. Not only should schools educate about menstruation scientifically but also through a “human” perspective. By this, I mean that experiences about periods should be openly talked about to end the stigma created around periods. Additionally, schools should offer menstrual products for free in bathrooms since this would help girls to feel more comfortable and in an environment, where they know that they have the necessary resources to menstruate without risks.
An example of this can be seen in Scotland. It has become the first country to provide period products for free. This shows that it is possible to provide these products for free and this should be an important aim for every country. Menstrual bleeding is not a luxury.
Female hygiene products are as much a necessity as toilet paper in bathrooms. Menstrual products should be provided for free in every public bathroom and even more so in education centers.